The war over which standard will become the dominant architecture for broadband wireless infrastructure seems to have ended -- but now there's a new fight.
Whether it becomes a mere skirmish and is squelched quickly or it becomes an all-out conflagration remains to be seen.
Of course I am talking about LTE (Long Term Evolution), a 4G (fourth-generation) technology that comes out of the cellular telecommunications world versus WiMax, which has its roots in high tech.
Most carriers are settling on LTE
Following years of GSM versus CDMA and the divergent evolutionary path followed by wireless carriers, LTE is the technology upon which most carriers appear to be converging.
LTE’s first iteration is promised to deliver downlink speeds of anywhere from 3Mbps to a peak of 10Mbps, and uplink speeds of 1.5Mbps to 3Mbps. But of course that depends on the amount of bandwidth a carrier allocates to the service. It can go much higher.
LTE also gives carriers a chance to settle on a single technology worldwide as they move from the multiple 3G technologies to LTE as the replacement 4G technology. With LTE, for example, companies such as Verizon in the U.S. and its part owner Vodafone in Europe could easily offer a single phone with a single technology that will work just about everywhere, unifying the networks at both the radio and core network layers. Today, Verizon uses CDMA and Vodafone uses GSM, so to continue with Verizon as my example, Verizon could only support wireless roaming onto other networks outside the U.S. using a dual-mode CDMA/GSM phone. That limited support would no longer be necessary after it moves to LTE.
It's true that a few carriers -- notably Sprint PCS -- have decided to stick with CDMA2000, a 3G cellular technology. But the adoption numbers for CDMA2000 are not in its favor: A recent Gartner report estimates that there are 2.1 billion GSM connections worldwide (or 79 percent of the market) versus 325 million CDMA2000 connections (12 percent of the market).
So LTE is clearly the future for cellular networks.
Or is it?
WiMax may beat LTE to the punch
Although the carriers are largely converging on LTE as their next-gen cellular technology, a new challenge is emerging from an entirely different camp: Wi-Fi, which Intel and computer equipment makers have been pushing. Although WiMax has been promoted for years, its actual deployment finally seems imminent.